David Lister: Listen to Nigel

The Week in Arts: When Nigel speaks, people should listen

Share
Related Topics

A real highlight of this year's BBC Proms has occurred already. It was the performance by Nigel Kennedy last weekend. The sold-out show will be transmitted on BBC2 tonight. You might wonder, as I did, why the BBC, which runs the Proms and broadcasts many of them live, did not broadcast this event live, but decided to wait a full week before showing it. There is a technical reason for this – they're nuts.

But, more important, the triumphant return of Kennedy to a British concert platform after a long absence was an object lesson in how to make classical music more appealing to new and young audiences. Nigel did something breathtakingly simple, but at the same time breathtakingly radical. He talked to the audience.

OK, it was banter of a studiedly Kennedyesque type – "We gonna do a bit of British romantic music" when introducing Elgar's violin concerto. But it established a rapport with the audience. And in his praise of conductor Paul Daniel at the end for not "messing around" with the music (which I suspect meant giving Kennedy his head), he also gave an insight into a virtuoso's thinking.

Why does it have to be written in stone that classical soloists, and conductors, never chat to the audience? Rock performers do it. I have seen many of the great violinists of the age, but Kennedy is the first I have heard speak on stage. Of course one goes to see them play. That is paramount. But their thoughts on the piece they are about to play or have just played would be a big bonus. Even a "hello" would be nice. The way the audience members responded to Kennedy's chat left me in no doubt how much they appreciated it.

In America, too, a radical departure in presentation of a classical music concert has taken place. The New York Philharmonic played in Central Park to an audience of 61,000. (What our own orchestras would give for that.) That audience was told that it could choose the encore, text messaging its preferences from a small list in the programme. The audience deciding on the encore by text messaging? Well, why not? A summer outdoor concert is a fun event as well as a chance to hear beautiful music expertly played. Let's hope that the organisers of the Proms do the same thing for the Proms in the Park concerts.

I was struck, too, this week by other ways classical music and opera are trying to change their image. Tony Hall, the chief executive of the Royal Opera House, has said that some relays of Royal Opera performances to cinemas will be shown in 3D, so you will don your 3D glasses before watching Don Giovanni. He also said that all 2,200 seats at the opening performance in September of the same opera at Covent Garden will be reserved exclusively for Sun readers in an attempt to woo a very different opera audience. Meanwhile, Welsh National Opera singers will perform on the beach at Porthcawl in August as a live soundtrack to a film being made there about surfing.

I'm not at all convinced by the idea of a national opera house funded by the taxpayer reserving all of its seats for readers of one newspaper, however boisterous the evening turns out to be. But taken together, all these disparate initiatives show that opera and classical music are at last prepared to be bolder in reaching out to new audiences.

No doubt Independent readers will be able to suggest even more ideas to Tony Hall when, in the interests of fairness, he announces an Independent-only evening at Covent Garden.

Crass stupidity, Joanna

The singer Joanna Newsom has built up a strong reputation in the pop and folk worlds. She looks striking, which is not that rare, and she has won a young audience by singing and playing the harp, which is quite rare. What a pity, though, that she began her concert in the Somerset House courtyard in London by saying to the audience: "What a lot of white people."

It's a crassly stupid remark to make. If Miss Newsom has failed to attract black fans, then that is the fault of her and her music, not the punters who have actually paid money to see her. Is she trying to prove that she is hipper and more socially aware than everyone else around her?

What makes the statement even sillier is that it wasn't even true. The audience did, as it happens, contain white and black fans. I suggest that the next time she performs, she would do better just to thank people for coming. She might also invest in a pair of glasses.

* Watching the first night of the excellent revival of West Side Story at Sadler’s Wells on Thursday, I was struck by how two much repeated points of language in the musical now seem bizarrely quaint.

The Sharks, a gang of Puerto Rican immigrants to New York in the 1950s, are referred to constantly as the PRs. The trouble is that those initials now tend to mean something other than Puerto Rican, and I kept having this strange image of the Sharks as a bunch of public relations executives flinging their cappuccinos at the opposing gangs.

There was another thought which distracted me from the action. I found myself wondering when exactly, which year, which month, which time of day, did the word Daddy-O stop being used in common parlance. There must have been a moment when self-respecting teenagers looked at each other and said: "Hang ona minute, this word is really, really sad."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Credit Controller will work...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Junior Software Developer

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leader in video and advertis...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Part Time

£10500 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Part Time Accounts Assistant ...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company supply, install an...

Day In a Page

Read Next
BoJack is the walking embodiment of why-the-long-face  

BoJack Horseman - the most depressing cartoon on TV - is thankfully back for a third Netflix series

Edmund Cuthbert
 

The world's population has reached 'peak youth'. This should be a wake-up call to world leaders

Perry Maddox
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'